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Drug Abuse By Youths : Causes And Solutions (1)

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I believe the topic, “The Menace of Drug Abuse by the Youths of Northern Nigeria: Causes and Recommended Solutions” is timely and appropriate. According to Ohanyere (2008), “Drug abuse and its effects are the biggest challenges confronting teenagers and youths generally all over the world particularly in modern time. The scourge of drug abuse is considered to be a threat to the world health peace and security, it is particularly feared to endanger youths and teenagers more, because they are direct victims of this global drug saga…”

Drugs, according to Adenika (1988), occupy a unique position in health care. They make healthcare credible because they can cure diseases, relieve symptoms and alleviate suffering. The psychological satisfaction produced by drugs creates a favourable environment on which the preventive and educational elements of health care can be built with consequent further improvement in health.

Present in pharmacies and hospitals are specialists that have been trained to take care of the sick like medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses and the like. Specialization in different aspects of medicine is attained in Universities or higher colleges or centers for health research. There are also traditional specialists who trained and passed through generations in the family from parents and grandparents. These are the traditional practitioners.

It is important to note that every drug has its dosage. That is why when patients take more than the prescribed dose, there would be adverse effects. For every drug is also a poison – yes poison, to the disease causing organisms. Because of the weakness inherent in man, he resorts to abuse of drugs contrary to prescribed instructions. Sometimes just for recreation and to be high, man resorts to drugs abuse. Here, drugs have different classifications outlined below:-

(i)            Drugs of Plant Origin: e.g. Datura stramonium (Thorn apple), tobacco, etc. all have abusive constituents;

(ii)           Breweries: e.g. alcohol or wine, etc. all have abusive constituents;

(iii)          Prescription Drugs: There are drugs that are meant for the treatment of diseases but when taken in overdose could cause delirium. Here you find drugs like Benyline with codeine, tramadol, morphine, etc;

(iv)         Schedule II Substances of Abuse: e.g. cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, etc;

(v)          Sedatives Hypnotics: e.g. prescription drugs for mental disorders. Here there are drugs like Valium for sedation for psychiatric patients and insomnias under prescription, but others, especially youths, abuse these drugs for euphoria or to suppress low-self-esteem.

Apart from these drugs, there are other unconventional substances of abuse that have been initiated, e.g. –Lizard dung, Plantain Leaves, Pit latrine inhalation, Smoking burnt old newspapers. The name Felix Hoffmann may probably not mean much to people outside the healthcare industry. To pharmacists especially, Hoffmann’s discovery of Aspirin is probably one of the greatest discoveries of medicine or pharmaceutical products the world had witnessed over a century ago. Also chemically known as Acetyl-Salicylic Acid (or ASA), Aspirin is to become the first synthetically produced pharmaceutical product, first in 1897 by Chemist Felix Hoffmann at Bayer, a German Chemical Company, for the relief of pain and fever. Eventually, its use extended to treat symptoms of pain related to rheumatism, lumbago and neuralgia in the 1920s.

As with every pharmaceutical product, the issue is that of safety and efficacy, which are of main concern to the pharmacist, the professional who formulated Aspirin and other Aspirin containing substances. Codeine belongs to the family of drugs derived from opium. Opiates cover a huge variety of drugs, ranging from licit drugs, such as codeine and morphine, to illegal drugs, such as heroin. Codeine is an opiate used to treat pain in cough medicine and is used for the treatment of mild to moderate degrees of pain. Codeine is less potent than its relative, morphine. It, however, holds powerful addictive properties for the many people who abuse it worldwide.

Codeine and other opiates in pharmaceutical preparations for the suppression of cough and pains associated with cough are therapeutic agents dispensed by the pharmacist after a patient is issued a prescription by a licenced medical practitioner or dentist. However, in the words of Aguwa (2002), in the treatment of severe visceral pain with opiates or their analogues, the danger of addition exists. That is the position of ethics within the healthcare provider facilities, whether at the primary, secondary or tertiary tiers of the healthcare system in Nigeria. However, codeine and other opiates have always been abused in Nigeria and other countries.

What researchers attempted and succeeded in avoiding in the likes of heartburn, nausea, irritation and possible gastric bleeding, as the side effects in the use of Aspirin, led to the discovery of Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), such as Diclofenac and Piroxicam, etc. to the rescue, but it becomes a challenge with the opiates as analgesics because of addiction. Youths are the most common abusers of drugs in the society because of fun, peer pressure, lack of home training and social acceptance. This is to the huge detriment of the society, as youth are the leaders of tomorrow. The fact that youths go against their parents’ training and indulge in drugs abuse is proving detrimental to the economic activities of the community and the nation at large. These are some of the ill-effects that drug abuse can lead to:

Intoxicating Effects: Can affect judgment and decision, leading to criminal offences like robbery and murder and attacking innocent bystanders;

Deleterious Effects on Health: Especially to vital organs like the liver, kidney, heart, brain or body parts;

Economic Loss: The amount of money spent to procure drugs of abuse can be better spent on other economic activities for the betterment of the nation;

Communal Crisis: Most drug abusers indulge in crimes and cause unsettling uproars within the community, since they are out of touch with their senses. This in turn leads to criminal offences like armed robbery, rape, petty theft and other vices against the norms of the society like undermining elders and constituted authority;

Illicit Trade of Drugs: Operating outside legal regulations;

Economic Meltdown: From illiteracy and unemployment among youths due to the continuous use of drugs of abuse.

 

The Northern States Perspectives:

We have discussed the ill-effects of drugs abuse. There are presently three (3) regulatory agencies that must be involved in any attempt to reduce to the barest minimum the evil effects of Drug Abuse. They are: NAFDAC, PCN, NDLEA. The first two concern drugs used in therapy but which could be abused and these include psychotropic drugs and prescription drugs containing substances, such as codeine, morphine and tramadol hydrochloride. NDLEA is concerned with the illicit use and trafficking of drugs of addiction, which when refined and produced under the supervision of a pharmacist, could have therapeutic effects. One could also add the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) and the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) both of which have roles to play in curbing the evil-effects of drug abuse.

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and control is responsible for the registration of all pharmaceutical products (drugs), foods, medical devices, bottled water, cosmetics, detergents and chemicals in Nigeria, among the prominent fractions. What is important here is that NAFDAC is responsible for the registration of pharmaceutical products with substances classified under Scheduled II, that is, substances that could be used – amphetamine, pethidine, morphine, etc but in doses that are allowed for therapeutic purposes and which could be monitored by a clinical pharmacist, a medical practitioner or a nursing care personnel. The Table below contains list of some products registered by NAFDAC, which contain substances with addictive properties that could be abused by consumption beyond what is prescribed for therapeutic purposes.

An item that comes to mind is Benyline with Codeine and Tramal. These two (2) and the likes of them are meant for therapeutic purposes but find their ways out of the official drug distribution system and are accessed by the youths, married women and girls in their teens.

NAFDAC is responsible for the allocation for the substances, e.g. Codeine, to the pharmaceutical manufacturers, who produce these products and are responsible to ensure proper monitoring of real use in manufacturing and not sold on the streets or underground in crude forms.

The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) is a regulatory agency of the Federal Government under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) saddled with the responsibility of regulating and controlling pharmacy education and practice in all aspects and ramifications, among other functions. The PCN is therefore responsible for the approval, registration, licensing and monitoring of pharmaceutical premises where activities take place, such as at pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, wholesale and importation companies of pharmaceutical nature, retail pharmacies (Community Pharmacies), Hospital pharmacies and patent medicine stores.

All the pharmaceutical products stocked in these premises or those to be manufactured must have NAFDAC registration numbers, otherwise they are deemed fake. PCN and NAFDAC collaborate on a daily basis to ensure the activities of regulating and controlling importation, manufacturing and access to orthodox drugs by the populace are harmonized. Between these two  agencies, PCN and NAFDAC, the ill effect of drug abuse could be reduced. Any pharmaceutical premises which is not registered and licenced by the PCN is an illegal premises just like any product, which is not registered by NAFDAC, is fake.

The National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was established through Act 48 of 1989 and saddled with the responsibility to enforce laws against the cultivation, processing, sale, trafficking and use of hard drugs and to empower the Agency to investigate persons suspected to have dealings in drugs and other related matters.

PCN, NAFDAC and NDLEA are what are known as Drug Regulatory Agencies (DRAs) in the country. As discussed earlier in the chapter, each performs one role or the other, which has to do with the premises for the manufacture or sale of drugs, their registration and distribution or control, especially in controlled substances, to guard against illegal trafficking, as the case may be. There are overlaps and conflicts as to the interpretation of the laws establishing each of the DRAs. Olaniyi (2005) correctly advocated for the proper harmonization of the existing laws, as well as functions and responsibilities, of DRAs (i.e. NDLEA, PCN and NAFDAC) in the country to remove conflicts and unnecessary overlapping of functions between them.

Perhaps in an attempt to harmonize the operations of what Tayo (2007) refers to as National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs), especially between PCN and NAFDAC, he posited for the following within the National Regulatory Agencies:

A very viable and well designed management information system, which should be given its pride of place in terms of documentation, information input, processing output and use in meaningful management decision making to improve the internal and external working and advocacy, respectively. It is very easy to identify the cause of the drug addiction epidemic in respect of codeine containing substances among the population in predominantly Muslim dominated States, such as Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna, Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Niger, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa and others, as mentioned.

Misunderstanding or the citizens’ refusal to understand that it is not only the consumption of alcoholic drinks or substances that Islam forbids, but any substance consumed or used with the tendency of elevating the mood to a “high” to such an extent that the believer loses control of his/her faculties, is totally forbidden in Islam. In the case of Codeine containing cough syrups, willingly consumed by a Muslim in doses beyond the therapeutic level for the purpose of getting “high”, they have the same level of crime (sin) as the consumption of the more conventional intoxicant drinks, such as beer, wines, etc.

The Muslim cannot deceive himself/herself or indeed think he/she can deceive Almighty Allah (SWT) by consuming beyond therapeutic levels, notwithstanding the fact that the consumption of alcohol is a taboo in those states mentioned in addition to religious repercussions. The Consumption of intoxicants and  drugs:  what the Qur’an and the Sunnah (prophetic tradition) say regarding intoxicants and narcotics.

Allah, the Almighty states in the Glorious Qur’an: “O You who believe! Indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” [Qur’an: 5:90] Allah, the Almighty has described using intoxicants, amongst other things, as appalling, despicable and hateful acts of Satan and He has commanded us to abstain from them.

 

–Being a paper presented by Prof. Ahmed Tijjani Mora, (mni) member, Board of Trustees of Zeda on the occasion of the Zaria Education Development Association 26th  annual public lecture for the 2018 Annual General Meeting at the Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar Assembly Hall, Ahmadu Bello Drive, Barewa College, Zaria

 

TO BE CONCLUDED

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